Texas Governor: Plant Explosion a 'Nightmare Scenario' - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Texas Governor: Plant Explosion a 'Nightmare Scenario'

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry is calling the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in his state "a truly nightmare scenario."

Authorities have said as many as 15 people are feared dead and more than 160 others were injured in the explosion that leveled homes and businesses in the farming community of West, Texas.

Perry emphasized during a Thursday morning news conference that much of the information about victims still is "very preliminary."

He says President Barack Obama has offered a quick turnaround of declaring McLennan County an emergency disaster that is eligible for federal aid.

Perry says at least 75 homes were damaged in the blast. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst says the explosion Wednesday night knocked people "all over the town" back 10 feet, including some through windows.

The Dallas Fire-Rescue department says one of its off-duty fire captains was killed while helping fight the blaze at the Texas fertilizer plant that exploded in the small town of West.

Dallas Fire-Rescue says in a Thursday statement that Capt. Kenny Harris lived in West and wasn't on duty when he decided to lend a hand to volunteer firefighters battling the Wednesday night fire at West Fertilizer Co.

The statement says Harris was a 52-year-old married father of three grown sons. The Dallas Fire-Rescue chaplain and other members of department are in West to help comfort his family.

Erick Perez was playing basketball at a nearby middle school yesterday evening when a fire started at the plant. He says he and his friends thought nothing of it, but then the smoke changed color. He says the blast threw him, his nephew and others to the ground, and showered the area with hot embers and debris.

Julie Zahirniako had been with her son at the school playground. She says the explosion threw her son four feet in the air, breaking his ribs.

She says she saw people running from a nearby nursing home, and that the roof of the school lifted into the sky.

The nursing home was also badly damaged. One man who arrived there before the first responders says he and his wife found residents in wheelchairs trapped in their rooms, amid dark hallways and ceilings that had collapsed.

Fortunately, the nursing home's 133 residents were safely evacuated.

The Texas Department of Public Safety says the blast that happened around 8 p.m. (Central time) in a town called West. It's located about 20 miles north of Waco.

The Mayor of West says firefighters went to fight a fire at the plant about a half-hour before the explosion.

The Red Cross is on scene, working to help those forced out of their homes.

 

 

Officials say the exact cause of the explosion is under investigation. They are treating this as a possible crime "just to be safe" and will downgrade it to an industrial accident if and when that is confirmed. 

One of the reasons the Texas explosion was so destructive was because of the chemical compound ammonium nitrate- a key component in fertilizer, and also explosives.

Today on "CBS This Morning" physicist Michio Kaku explained how dangerous it can be.

"The ammonium nitrate released in an accident of this sort can release the energy of several truckloads of dynamite. Enough to set off a 2.1 magnitude earthquake in terms of intensity. The Oklahoma City Bombing for example was based on one ton of fertilizer. Here they were licensed to have over 25 tons."

 

 

Kaku went on to say fertilizer explosions are some of the most destructive in the country's history.

He also said it's possible the water from the hoses of firemen who were trying to put out the initial fire reacted with a certain type of ammonia and caused a chain reaction triggering the explosion.

 

(AP, CBS News)

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